Archive - 2019

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» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5
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» My life didn’t turn out how I thought it would.
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» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida

» Boys’ Trip to Houston in the 2019 Mazda CX-5

When one of your son’s best friends wants to go to an NBA game for his birthday, you go to Houston! After six months of planning, we introduced our good friends to some of Houston’s best offerings, leaving them wanting more after the trip. The 2019 Mazda CX-5 crossover took us up, through, and down Houston’s Beltway and Interstates this time around.

Here are a few things we especially liked about the car followed by a rundown of our Houston adventures:

Design – We are still in love with the redesign that continues to improve from 2017. The interior comfortably seats five even with a group of crazy boys that tend to extend their arms and legs in all directions.

Interior – The interior of the CX-5 gets better each year. Every detail is well thought out, making everything in arms reach without having to take your focus off the road. The heated leather seats are offered for the front and rear seats to make everyone comfortable in the coldest winter months.

Safety Features – With a group of rowdy kids, it’s easy to lose focus to detail with the additional distractions. That’s more reason to appreciate Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. At just the right times when parking, the Mazda would display multiple angles of the vehicle to assist with parking.

Houston can be a stressful place to drive with lots of traffic and lane closures. The CX-5 made the drives fun and enjoyable. The attention to detail and response of the car make you feel in control and safe at all times.

Houston Boys’ Trip Highlights and Destinations:
After the plane ride, the boys were pretty restless so we booked it straight to the Museum District to visit Houston’s Children’s Museum. This has always been a favorite so my boys were excited to introduce their friends to this one. Anyone can safely plan a three-four hour trip here.


After running around for a few hours, the boys were starving. We headed to for a ten minute drive to find The Pit Room, a not-so-secret BBQ restaurant in Montrose.

There’s no wondering why this spot made Texas Monthly’s list for Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas. At the time of our visit, the line was not too long and went quickly. The environment is nice with a large outdoor seating option during the warmer months. We had some hungry guys so we went for The Feast, which feeds 4-6. The brisket was tender and the jalapeño sausage was a favorite. Make sure to macaroni and cheese as one of your sides. The George Jones’ hits on the house speakers come at no extra charge.

After a lazy Saturday visiting with family, our quick weekend birthday trip would be topped off with the Rockets facing the Magic for a Sunday night game. We showed up early to watch players warm up and maybe get an autograph or two. The Rockets do an incredible job from the way the employees greeted us, the family-friendly environment they promote, and the high standards they put on production quality. In short, the birthday game did not disappoint.

Before the big game, we visited BuffBurger in Montrose. Where do I begin? The smell is great when you first walk in, it must be the wood fire grill. The beef is high quality from Ranch 44 and tastes like beef should. The parmesan truffle fries were perfect say the least. We definitely ate more than we should’ve.

Kids eat free on Monday and Tuesday (with purchase of a regular dine-in meal). The Little BuffBurger was a big hit. We opted out of the soft drinks to indulge on the great selection of ice cream.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-5
For our trip, this car was perfect. We didn’t require a ton of storage since we were only staying for two nights. The gas efficiency and option for Sport mode are great for daily use. Houston driving always keeps you on your toes, and the Mazda’s safety features helps you focus on the important things when it comes to navigating the streets. We love this car as much as we love Texas, and that’s a big deal.

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2019 CX-5 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» My life didn’t turn out how I thought it would.

How many conversations have you had lately that started with a similar statement? I remember making a lot of plans when I was growing up. Dreaming up a life, a house, some make-believe kids. Some of those dreams panned out exactly as I had hoped they would. A gentle husband by my side, two cherished children from other nations and two carried in my very body. Every week I buy groceries, without counting the cost, and feed them their favorites. But some dreams just didn’t come true. Maybe I tried and failed and in some instances I didn’t even come close. Maybe a choice or decision took me further from my dreams than I had hoped it would.

Many influencers have spoken into this void, telling me, telling you, to chase those dreams down, wrangle them and make them happen. They tell us we are powerful and in control. I’m an advocate of taking steps to make things happen, but I can’t get on board with the idea that we can control everything that happens to us. Because we can’t.

I’ve seen the world, just like you have. It’s full of heartbreak, death, sickness, joy, success and surprises… both good and bad. Attempting to control life is a futile effort. We are one phone call away from disaster. It’s a hard reality. And one that fully exists in our broken world.

Our expectations and dreams in such a world can break us. And that’s what it really comes down to. Expectations and how we project those onto other people, our family and ourselves. How, then, can one adjust their dreams and expectations?

As a Christian, I have to take a hard look at myself when it comes to this question. What’s in my heart? What should and shouldn’t be there? Are my dreams a benefit to me, or others? Am I trying to control my surroundings? It’s sobering to make such examinations.

Proverbs 16:9 says “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

When I feel like I’m fighting the course of my life this verse is a reminder to look to the one who holds the plan. When I look at life and lament that it didn’t line up with my dreams, I’m reminded that it’s impossible for me to live any other life but this one. I’m not in control, and that’s a sweet freedom. Releasing expectations, loving others and obediently stepping forward is freedom. Embracing God’s plan and love for me… is freedom.

Life didn’t turn out how I thought it would… but I’m more confident every day that it’s actually much better.

» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida

This November we spent three days exploring Universal Studies and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m going to save my thoughts and tips on that experience for another post. Today I want to share about our beach time that we tacked on the end of our time in Orlando. There are several gorgeous beaches within 1-2 hours of the Orlando area. After braving Disney for seven straight days a few years back we came to realize that we enjoy our vacations a lot more if a little sand and sun accompanies the endless lines and $12 ice creams.

Enter St. Pete beach, approximately an hour and a half drive from Orlando. St. Pete is a quirky, eclectic area outside of Tampa that offers everything from hand-rolled cigars to boardwalk ice cream, cuban food and high end beach resorts. For this stay we opted to check in with Tradewinds Island Grand resort. Tradewinds is comprised of two resorts, The Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost. Together they make up over 31 acres of prime beachfront fun. As we experienced firsthand there is plenty to do for families. Tradewinds offers a kids club, water sports, beach front pools, entertainment, fine and casual dining and family friendly suites. Our suite met the needs of our entire family AND the grandparents.

Tradewinds offers an experience that, while not all-inclusive, does include quite a bit. For example, cabanas and chairs on the beach are offered at no additional charge. Guy Harvey outpost also hosts a nightly beachside fire and smores experience at no additional charge. Other “free” activities include the massive High Tide water slide, surf wipe-out and paddle boats. There is also a daily schedule of poolside activities like bingo, which we all enjoyed.

Tradewinds offers various packages to help families add in a few extras. We did opt to try out adventure bands for our kids. This is essentially a little wristband that allows them to purchase snow cones, painting activities or other small attractions around the resort. If your child can keep up with money they may not need the band, but it worked well for our older kids who are only in the 9-11 year old range.

We spent time at Tradewinds Island Grand just as the off season was kicking in, late November. This meant lower crowds and plenty of beach space. It was just the dose of sunshine we needed as Nashville was headed into the 30’s that week. We’ve heard that a major renovation is on the horizon for this property and we are excited to see the suites and rooms get a refresh!

Bottom line, we highly recommend Tradewinds Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost for a beach vacation that has something for everyone. It’s family friendly with adult-only pools and areas as well. Best of both worlds!

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